First impressions matter. While we want our ministries to be built on a solid foundation of authentic relationships and rich Truth, the reality is we can’t get teens there if we fail to win them over with the first encounter.
If you want teenagers coming back and going deeper in their faith you need to make sure your ministry embraces a hospitality structure. While there are different ways to make an irresistible environment 4 components that have to be a part of it are:
COMPONENT 1: A FRIENDLY FRONTLINE
When someone walks in are they greeted at the door? It’s the most simple step to breaking down any barriers or guards. When you equip your ministry with men and women to greet teens as they walk in it affirms that they are in the right place.
Make sure the people you put at your front-line are good at memorizing names, smiling and informative. Encourage them to welcome all teenagers and ask them, “How are you doing?”
You can train them on picking up signs that a teen is new or uncomfortable. Give them instructions on how to engage teens who are uncomfortable or confused. Remind them their most important priority is creating a positive first impression.
COMPONENT 2: CLEAR AND ACCESSIBLE ENVIRONMENTS
Your environments matter just as much as your greeters. To create clear and accessible environments:
- Make sure your room is set-up before they arrive. It can be awkward to arrive too early.
- Keep the space clean and invest in new furniture. It shows you value their comfort.
- Post helpful signage that indicates where they should go.
Don’t leave environments to the last minute. Be intentional with putting them together and always think about, “What could make this place more engaging?”
COMPONENT 3: PEOPLE TO WALK WITH THEM
There are going to be times when a new student doesn’t know anyone. The best way to help them overcome a fear of sticking out is to connect them with someone who can show them around.
While an adult can serve in this role it’s probably better to form a team of teenage ambassadors. Train these teens to introduce the new students to their friends. Have them sit with them during the program so that if they have questions there is someone near to answer them.
COMPONENT 4: A CONSISTENT FOLLOW UP STRATEGY
It takes courage to go to someplace new for the first time, to go back can sometimes be just as hard. To help your teens overcome that hurdle make sure you follow up with them. This can be done by:
- Collecting their contact info.
- Shooting them an email, text and phone call during the week.
- Touching base with parents to thank them for bringing their teen.
What it communicates is that you value the effort and sacrifice they made to join you. It’s an act of gratitude the teen and their family will appreciate. It’s a great way of affirming a positive first impression.
Don’t underestimate first impressions and make them an afterthought. Think about being new and walking into a place for the first time. To help you and your leaders understand first impressions:
- Visit another church that you’ve never been to before.
- Reflect on your feelings and how you were greeted.
- Discuss with your team what was clear and what wasn’t.
Use what you learned to help you improve the way you greet teenagers. The more welcoming your environment the more people will see your ministry as a place where God’s love is present.
What components would you add to this list?